Energy Materials

Energy materials is one of the fastest growth areas in RCaH. A key area of growth is in lithium battery materials, being undertaken as a spoke of the Faraday Institute.

One group has developed novel thin films using the RCaH molecular beam epitaxy laboratory for spintronics and other applications. They have also developed in situ rigs to make and test these materials using circularly polarised light to measure the alignment of the magnetisation one layer at a time on I10 at Diamond. This capability is now being used by groups across the UK through an EPSRC programme grant and STFC funding.

Another group studies molecular engineering for sustainable energy applications, including ‘smart windows’ that generate electricity from sunlight, potentially enabling buildings to power themselves.

Artemis

Artemis investigates ultrafast electron dynamics in condensed matter and gas-phase molecules, and for coherent lensless imaging.

Principal Investigator: Emma Springate

Artemis investigates ultrafast electron dynamics in condensed matter and gas-phase molecules, and for coherent lensless imaging.

Artemis is based on high repetition rate, few optical cycles and widely tuneable laser sources, and ultrafast XUV (10-100 eV) pulses produced through high harmonic generation. We exploit the femtosecond time-resolution afforded by harmonics to use them as ultrafast probes of electron dynamics. Our key technique is time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy with XUV high harmonic probe pulses and we have three dedicated end-stations for gas- and solid-phase experiments. We also exploit the spatial coherence of the XUV to use coherent diffractive imaging techniques.

Artemis will move across the campus to RCaH in late 2018 as part of a major upgrade funded by STFC and BEIS. The upgrade adds a new laser system (a joint purchase with Ultra) and a new XUV beamline. The new laser will use OPCPA technology to provide mid-infrared pulses at 100 kHz repetition rate.

For Artemis, the mid-infrared will enable the generation of higher photon energy XUV pulses and the higher repetition rate allows smaller samples to be studied. For Ultra, the appeal is the ability to provide broader spectral coverage at high repetition rates, for faster data acquisition, and more efficient generation of mid- to far-IR pulses.

Central Laser Facility

The CLF is the UK’s national laser facility and offers access to advanced laser technologies. Two facilities, ULTRA and Octopus, are housed at RCaH.

Principal Investigator: Dr David Clarke

The CLF is the UK’s national laser facility and offers access to advanced laser technologies ranging from extremely high power lasers for investigating matter under extreme conditions, to spectroscopy and imaging facilities for life sciences, chemistry and materials research. RCaH houses two of the CLF’s facilities, ULTRA and Octopus. Both facilities are operated by STFC and have received considerable investment from BBSRC and MRC. Access to the facilities for UK academics is free at the point of use, via a peer-reviewed proposal mechanism. Various routes are available for access by industrial users.

ULTRA combines laser, detector and sample manipulation technology to study molecular dynamics to address scientific problems in the physical and life sciences. A range of ultrafast light sources provides unprecedented flexibility to combine multiple beams, multiple colours (UV to mid-IR), mixed timing patterns (fs-µs) and pulse length. ULTRA is one of the world’s most sensitive time-resolved spectrometers and is used to investigate dynamics of complex biological systems such as proteins. ​

Octopus is an advanced imaging facility containing a mixture of in-house-built and commercial systems, offering a range of imaging techniques. These include several modes of multidimensional single molecule microscopy, and structure determination in fixed cells, at ~5nm resolution via fluorescence localisation with photobleaching (FLimP)). Other techniques include super-resolution microscopy (STORM, PALM, SIM, STED), confocal microscopy (FLIM, FRET, and multiphoton), and light sheet microscopy.

ULTRA and Octopus will soon be joined in RCaH by Artemis, the CLF’s facility for ultrafast XUV science. Experiments on Artemis use high harmonics to investigate ultra-fast electron dynamics in condensed matter and gas-phase molecules, and for coherent lensless imaging.

Centre for In Situ Processing Studies (CIPS)

We are working on multi-modal microscopy of natural and engineered materials and structures.

Principal Investigator: Alexander Korsunsky

Research groups at the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford and at RCaH are working on multi-modal microscopy of natural and engineered materials and structures. We have expertise in additive manufacturing, particularly in residual stress analysis and processing-structure-property relationships, and pursue research in close collaboration with partners at major industrial companies including Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen.

In the area of energy materials, the group carries out characterisation of advanced metallic alloys used in turbines for power generation on land and in the air, and of cathode, anode and solid electrolyte materials for lithium ion batteries, using X-ray and neutron diffraction, spectroscopy and imaging.

Further interests concern mineralised human tissues (dentine and enamel), particularly in the context of teeth decay known as human dental caries.

Harwell XPS EPSRC National Facility for X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy

We offer access to state-of-the-art spectrometers for photoelectron spectroscopy in our main laboratory based at RCaH.

Principal Investigator: Professor Philip Davies

We offer access to state-of-the-art spectrometers for photoelectron spectroscopy in our main laboratory based at RCaH. Together with our partner hubs offering specialist analysis at Cardiff University, UCL and the University of Manchester, the Harwell XPS service provides access to a wider range of XPS analysis methods than previously available to UK academia and industry, including:

  • XPS and UPS
  • angle resolved XPS (ARXPS)
  • XPS imaging
  • ion scattering spectroscopy (ISS/LEIS)
  • cluster and monotomic ion depth profiling
  • high energy XPS and near ambient pressure (NAP) XPS
  • high temperature and pressure treatments.

Molecular Engineering

Our goal is to develop new materials for sustainable energy applications via molecular engineering.

Principal Investigator: Professor Jacqueline Cole

Our overarching goal is to develop new materials for sustainable energy applications via molecular engineering. This expressly notions product design at the molecular scale, embracing rational molecular design concepts to tailor a material to meet a specific need in device technology.

Our ‘design-to-device’ approach uses a wide variety of experimental, computational and data science techniques. This includes X-ray and neutron diffraction and spectroscopy, electrochemistry, density-functional theory and large-scale data-mining.

Research projects focus on:

  • dye-sensitised solar cells
  • materials for optical telecommunications
  • solar-powered molecular motors
  • storing energy fuels and waste
  • optical data storage
  • dielectrics and conductors.

Much of our experimental work is carried out at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, using Diamond Light Source and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Facility for key synchrotron and neutron-based experiments, which are underpinned by laboratory-based work at the RCaH.

Our data science and computational work is carried out using high-performance computing resources from around the world. We have key collaborations with the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, IL, USA, and the Scientific Computing Department at RAL.

The Principal Investigator has a joint appointment between the University of Cambridge and STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory via the ISIS Neutron & Muon Source.

Multifunctional Materials & Composites (MMC) Lab

Our research interests are centred on the thermomechanical and physicochemical behaviour of advanced engineering materials.

Principal Investigator: Professor Jin-Chong Tan

Research in the MMC Lab in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford is focused on the nanoengineering of hybrid materials, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), bespoke thin films and composites, with emphasis on tuneable nanomaterials. We design, develop and engineer next-generation materials targeting a wide range of functional and structural applications, underpinning current and future challenges in energy, environmental sustainability and healthcare.

Our approach involves the application of cutting-edge experimental techniques, such as nanoindentation, atomic force microscopy and nanospectroscopy, in conjunction with theoretical modelling via finite-element and quantum mechanical calculations to gain insights into the physical and chemical properties of complex material systems. We perform cross-disciplinary research using the unique facilities at Diamond Light Source, RCaH and the ISIS Neutron Source.

Recent highlights from our research group include:

BBC Radio 4 Science in Action: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvrh5 (starting from 18.45 on the clock)

Oxford MBE Group @ Harwell

Our group focuses on the growth of quantum materials in the form of thin films and of nanostructures using molecular beam epitaxy, UHV sputtering and CVD.

Principal Investigator: Professor Thorsten Hesjedal

The Oxford MBE Group @ Harwell focuses on the growth of ferromagnets, topological insulators and magnetic insulators through molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), sputtering and chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Topological insulators are a cutting-edge class of materials where only the surface states are conducting, but perfectly so, and have transformative potential for the electronics industry. We seek to probe the resilience and character of this topological state through high-precision growth techniques that allow us to minutely tune properties, such as through doping with ferromagnetic ions, bilayering or cleaving.

MBE, our main deposition technique, allows for growth of high-quality single-crystal films by deposition onto a substrate material of molecular beams produced from ultra-high purity elemental sources. MBE growth, a stalwart of the semiconductor industry, is used by our group to grow thin films of Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te3 and related compounds. These films are then used in a wide range of experiments with our collaborators at ISIS and Diamond as well as further afield to try and probe the fundamental nature of the topological surface state.

Our characterisation methods include X-ray diffraction and reflectometry, muon spin rotation, resonant elastic X-ray scattering, X-ray spectroscopy, polarised neutron reflectometry, neutron diffraction, ferromagnetic resonance and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy. Our fortunate position near world-leading facilities gives us access to a diverse community of scientific knowledge as well as second-to-none experiments through which we study our samples and push at the boundaries of our current understanding.

Oxide Physics

We specialise in the crystal growth of exotic transition metal oxides, to study properties such as superconductivity and quantum magnetism.

Principal Investigator: Dr Robin Perry

We specialise in the crystal growth of exotic transition metal oxides with a view to studying fundamental properties such as superconductivity and quantum magnetism.

Oxide materials display a rich variety of physical phenomena – e.g. ferroelectricity, multiferroicity, superconductivity and transparent metallicity, all of which have the potential to underpin next-generation electronic devices.

Single crystals are mandatory for the elucidation of intrinsic physics as the basic theories of matter require momentum-resolved information in order to be tested. We collaborate with many groups at both ISIS and Diamond to pursue the experimental measurements, for example I05, B18, I16 (Diamond) and Merlin, SXD and LET (ISIS).

The chemical microprobe and X-ray facilities at RCaH are crucial for our work as they allow us to carefully characterise our samples in preparation for the large facility experiments.

PORTO

PORTO is a portable testbed for ultra-fast measurements of photo-activated changes in chemical and biochemical systems

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Dent

PORTO is a portable femtosecond pump-probe laser with a tunable wavelength output covering the UV, visible and near-IR funded by EPSRC, Diamond Light Source and supported by the Central Laser Facility.

PORTO provides a testbed for ultra-fast measurements of photo-activated changes in chemical and biochemical systems and for optimising the design of experiments at Diamond that exploit the relatively short bunch length (40 ps) and flexible bunch structure at the synchrotron.

The PORTO unit is mounted on an optical table; its portability enables it to be transferred to beamlines for performing laser pump/X-ray probe experiments. These experiments include simultaneous probing by UV-visible, IR and X-ray methods to identify transients and track the kinetics of change. PORTO underpins the development of new methodologies for obtaining detailed structural information on short-lived reaction intermediates.

There is worldwide interest in following chemical reactions in real time, from many minutes to femtoseconds. Timescales longer than milliseconds can usually be studied using physical methods such as heating, mixing, P-jump etc., but for faster experiments light induction with powerful lasers using the methodology of pump-probe is required.

PORTO provides an accessible route to the wider scientific community for experiments at Diamond, and ultimately the testing and development of experiments at X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) for studying the dynamics of structural change.